Sustainable delivery services, better options for children and the growth of food halls are among trends expected to drive foodservice in the coming year.

Brands that are challenging conventional foodservice formats, and blurring the lines between foodservice and retail, will continue to enjoy success in the coming year, according to retail analysts The NPD Group.

“What we see in these trends is how creative the British foodservice industry can be, and how well it understands and adapts to consumer expectations,” added the firm’s insights director Dominic Allport.

“Operators that provide appetising choices, not just for meat-eaters but for flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans, will also thrive. The industry’s ability to innovate is also evident in the growing range of improved children’s menus and in the popularity of the food hall model.”

The five trends identified by The NPD Group are:

Sustainable foodservice delivery
One of the fastest-growing sales channels in out-of-home (OOH) foodservice, delivery is forecast by NPD to make up 10% of Britain’s entire foodservice market by 2022. But it has the potential to be impacted by consumer concerns around waste, packaging and carbon emissions.

While packaging that retains heat and freshness is essential, this needs to be balanced by suppliers using more acceptable, recyclable forms of packaging.

“They will also need to moderate their carbon footprint through greater use of low-carbon and zero-carbon means of delivery, such as 100% electric mopeds, motorcycles and road-legal scooters, as well as electric and conventional bicycles,” suggests The NPD Group.

“An increased emphasis on making deliveries in the greenest way possible will help spur continued growth in foodservice delivery visits during 2020 and beyond.”

Breaking boundaries
“With rising consumer expectations for ultra-convenience and engaging experiences, smart foodservice operators understand that defying old conventions can be a route to success,” according to NPD.

The firm pointed out that the clear distinction between restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops and fast food had blurred.

NPD highlighted The Loungers chain as an example of an operation that is a restaurant, a pub and a café with a focus on the local neighbourhood; while Planet Organic offers a mix of foodservice and conventional retail such as organic grocery and beauty products, supplemented by leisure activities including yoga, cookery classes and workshops.

“Winners must be prepared to break boundaries as a way of staying ahead of consumer needs and trends.”

More to life than meat
In the three months to October 2019, almost 3% of British eating-out visits were influenced by whether or not the venue had vegetarian or vegan options on the menu, according to The NPD Group research.

Analysts also found that vegetarian and vegan options were 41% more important than average at breakfast, and 55% more important than average among 16- to 24-year-olds.

“Winners will understand the value of meat alternatives and that consumers of all kinds (even those who love meat) enjoy non-meat meals,” stated The NPD Group. “The successful operator will serve up food that makes everybody happy – meat-eaters, flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans.”

Kids’ menus are growing up
Visits that included food or drink ordered from a kids’ menu, or were part of a kids’ meal deal, represented 4% of total OOH visits and were currently growing almost 10 times faster than the total market, found the study.

Researchers pointed out that foodservice operators were looking to cater for younger palates through a fresh approach to kids’ menus, flagging up Leon, Pho, Giraffe and Wagamama as businesses that had introduced innovative new kids’ dishes.

“Winners will be those suppliers and operators that are able to offer classic kids’ meals with a contemporary twist, while also experimenting with new menu items or ingredients,” said The NPD Group.

Food halls storm ahead
The food hall format – typically a large indoor area where street-food vendors and established restaurants serve customers from their own stalls – is in rapid growth, tapping the trend for informal, unstructured eating, found The NPD Group.

“Winners will provide atmosphere, variety, excitement and value for money,” said the firm. “Food halls offer lower rents and guaranteed footfall for operators, as well as more choice for consumers, creating a lower-risk environment where well-executed concepts can thrive in a fun and informal atmosphere.”